Batch 13- The Wild Hops Brew

I got some free hops off of Craigslist, so I thought what better way to test them out than to make a batch of beer!

I wanted it to be generic and inexpensive ale so I can really see what these hops characteristics are.  So, I picked up 10 lbs of two row and 1 lb of crystal malt for the brew.  I had to do the same method I used with batch 12 to do the grains, which is do the protien rest in 2 pots, boiled water in my 3 gallon pot for later sparging, and once the protien rest was done to dump the water in a bucket and split the grains between my 4 and 3 gallon brew pots for the mash.

Once the mash was done, I sparged the grains, this time getting around 8 gallons of wort, which I began to reduce down.  6 hours later I was ready to brew.  I brought the wort up to boil, threw in about an ounce and a half of hops, and boiled for 50 minutes.  Then I threw another 1/2 ounce of the hops in for the last 10 minutes.  I then hand strained the hops out, poured the wort into my fermentation bucket, and let it cool.  Initial gravity was 1.025 on this.

Silly me, I forgot to pitch the yeast the next morning, so I ended up coming home for lunch to pitch the yeast, and say “Hi” to my wonderful wife.

So, fermentation has begun, now time to wait and see what this batch does.

And for future note, I’m probably going back to doing a min-mash in the future:  I’m not a huge fan of getting poor extraction from my grains, and I don’t like reducing stuff down for hours and hours.

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Batch 12- 6 Months in the Making

Not really 6 months in the making, it’s just been that long since I’ve brewed.

I’m dead broke.  So, one day a friend approaches me with an offer:  He’ll buy the ingredients, I brew the beer, he takes a portion as payoff for his investment.  Sounds good to me!

So, I scoured my Joy of Home Brewing book, and came across a recipe that I wanted to try.  Good Life Pale Ale.  Papazian says he brews it 3 to 4 times a year to guarantee the good life.  If he loves it that much, it must be good.

So, first thing I do is figure out what hops I’m substituting, as the recipe calls for Fuggles and Kent Goldings (neither of which I have, nor do I want to buy any, given I have almost 3 lbs of hops in my freezer.)  So, I chose Hallertauer for the Fuggles replacement (bittering hops) and Willamette for the Goldings (30 minutes into it, plus aroma hops.) 

My first problem is that I don’t have a brew pot big enough.  I have a 3 gallon pot and a 4 gallon pot.  So, what I did is did the protien rest in the 4 gallon and a standard generic 1 gallon pot, then used the 3 gallon to boil water for stage two.

Once I reached stage two I had a problem.  I needed to add 5 quarts of boiling water to the 4 gallon pot.  It was full.  I needed to add 2 quarts of water to the 1 gallon pot.  It was full.  So, what I did was dumped the boiling water in a plastic bucket and use my 3 gallon pot in conjunction with the 4 gallon to do the conversion.  I added 3 quarts of boiling water to each (a bit more than called for, but what the heck.)  The temperature steadied around 150, a little lower than what Papazian recommends, but everyone else at the beer store recommends doing your conversion at 148, so what the heck, I thought I’d give it a shot.

45 minutes later and conversion is done.  I upped the temp on both to 158 for 20 minutes, then to 168, then time to sparge.  During the whole conversion, I was taking the gallon pot, boiling water in it, and adding it to my plastic bucket.  That way I had over 6 gallons of water at high temperatures, which made it far easier to get it up to my sparging temp of 170. 

I dumped the grains into my zap-a-pap lauder tun, and began to sparge.  My first attempt I didn’t look at the levels of the water, and I had actually put too much in.  It spilled out the back.  After draining the water I had to clean up my mess and keep sparging.

Now, I decided to follow my friend Jared’s advice:  sparge till the water starts looking clear.  Unfortunately, after doing this, I had over 9 gallons of wort. 

9 Gallons of Wort

9 Gallons of Wort

 I began reducing it down at 12 noon.  At about 4PM I was able to empty the extra bucket of wort into the other two buckets.  By 8PM it was reduced enough to begin the boil.

I added 2oz of Hallertauer hops to the boil and let it go for 1/2 hour.  Then I added 1oz of Willamette hops.  When it had 3 minutes left I added another ounce of Willamette hops into the wort.  Once said and done I had a little less than 4 gallons of wort.  I poured it into my fermentation bucket (which was soaking in sanitizer solution during the entire boil) and topped it off to 6 gallons.

Good Life Pale Ale

Good Life Pale Ale

Tomorrow I’ll pitch the yeast, next week I’ll bottle, and in two weeks I’ll be enjoying the good life!

Batch 13 is ready to brew as well.  I have some wild hops I got for free, so I’m planning on making a beer with 10 lbs of 2 row and 1 lb of crystal malt and adding the wild hops to see what I get.  Should be interesting.

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Batch 11 Follow Up

Forgot to post about the results of my batch 11 brew, good old Papazian’s Humpty Dumpty English Bitter.  As I suspected, the alcohol content is weak (about 1%), there is a lack of maltiness in the finish that I love.  But, the hops have a beautiful aroma and a great start.  During the hot weather last week, this beer hit the spot.

So, lesson learned:  Sparge the heck out of your grains.  Even if I ended up with 8 gallons of water to boil down, it’s better to do that then to under-sparge as I did.  My friend Jared did a Belgian wit beer, and ended up with over 7 gallons for his wort, which he had to reduce down to 5 gallons.  He sparged until the water was coming out clear.  So, next time I’ll follow suit.  Of course, with the chaos in my life right now it will be a while until I get to brew again.

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Batch 11 Ready to Bottle

Saturday I brewed what I affectionately called “The $10 beer.”  Papazian has a recipe called “Humpty Dumpty’s Original Bitter” which I was able to buy ingredients for for around $10.  To help me out, my brother in law Jeremy met me at my in-laws house where we did our brewing.

The recipe calls for 6lbs of two row, 1/3 lb of crystal malt, and 1/4 lb of aromatic malt.  Now, this is less than 7lbs of grain, for a 5 gallon batch.  I was extremely generous with my measurements when I bought the grains, giving me a bit more than what was called for.  Now, the recipe also describes this as a very light beer with a good malty body, but very light in alcohol content.  Ok, going with less than 2 lbs of grains per gallon is definitely going to give you a light alcohol content.  I did replace the hops it called for, as I wasn’t about to buy some hops when I have 4lbs of hop pellets at home, as well as leftovers from my oatmeal stout.  I believe the recipe called for Northdown or Fuggles for bittering hops along with Kent Goldings for aroma.  I used Cascades for bittering and Chinook for aroma.  I also got to use my new lauder tun.

Now, I was debating about using a brew pot to make my wort or just mash it all in my new lauder tun.  I decided on the brew pot, as I don’t want to introduce too many variables into a new brew at once.  I did the three stage extraction, as per Papazian’s directions, but for the second stage I kept the temp a little lower than normal (145-150) at the suggestion of the guys at the beer store.  When this was done I dumped the whole thing into my new lauder tun and sparged it with 3 gallons of 170 degree water.  My 5 gallon brew pot was up to the rim with sweet wort.  Then it was time to boil the wort and add the hops.

My cascade hops were leftovers from my oatmeal stout, and I thought I had stored them properly, but when my brother in law dumped them in the brew pot I noticed that many of the hop flowers were brown.  Grr…. So to compensate for the crappy hops I added a touch of Chinook’s to the batch for bittering.  Once the wort got going everyone left the house.  They didn’t care too much for the hop aroma.  Strangely, I love it.  It smells like good memories.

We decided to use a colander with cheese cloth in it to filter the hops out at the end of the brew.  This worked out fine as the colander fit nicely into the top of my lauder tun.  So, we poured the beer into our poor boy filtration system, not thinking to remove the larger hop flowers out before doing this.  It filtered it all right, just went slow as the hop flowers and the what not’s clogged up the colander.  I then took some beer out to test in my hydrometer and sealed up the fermentation vessel.

Ok, this is supposed to be a light beer with good malty tones.  So, I took the initial gravity reading:  1.012, potential alcohol rating of 2.2 percent.   What?  Holy crap!  Either I didn’t get all the sugars extracted from the grains or this thing is meant to be this weak.

Fermentation lasted exactly 2 days.  Now, I get to bottle it.  I’m hoping to do it tonight.  I’ll post what the final gravity is and the final alcohol content.  Hopefully, it will turn out tasting good, as I will be disappointed if it doesn’t.   But, it should.  This is a Papazian recipe after all.

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New Lauder Tun

Just went to Steinbarts looking for just a bucket I can drill holes in to make a lauder tun.  This type of lauder tun is what Papazian recommends in “The Complete Joy of Home Brewing” (he calls it the zap-a-pap lauder tun.)  All it basically is is a bucket with a thousand holes drilled in the bottom, set inside another bucket with a spigot to drain the liquid.  So, I was going to spend $13 on a bucket to make my own, as I already have a bottling bucket to use as the bottom half of this style of lauder tun.

Well, I get to Steinbarts and what’ya know- they have the exact same system I was planning on making on sale for $20.  A bottling bucket, with another bucket that sets inside it, holes already drilled, no plastic shavings, all ready to go.  It is used, but heck, it’s cheap.  Now, I was planning on getting another bucket or carboy as well to be able to ferment more beers, or to do a secondary fermentation without hassle.  With this setup, I would be able to have my lauder tun setup as well as having another fermentation vessel.  For only $20.

Now, of course I purchased it (my wife will no doubt be mad at me for doing so.)  But, I couldn’t pass that up.  And better than having this, the gentleman who built this thing and was selling it was working at Steinbarts when I picked it up.  Michel Brown is his name, and he also handed me an article he wrote on building a mash tun and lauder tun system for really inexpensive using a picnic cooler.  He also told me about the multiple ways to use his lauder tun.

He said you can mash in it doing either a single stage mash or a two stage mash, and talked me through the process of doing that.  He also talked my ear off about mashing and temperature and other things that I probably will forget, but it was extremely educational.

So, thanks Michel Brown, for the lauder tun, the information, and for making F. H. Steinbarts a cool store to visit.

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A Terrific Compliment

Had a friend and co-worker make this statement about my Oatmeal Stout:

Probably some of the best stuff I’ve had in quite a while. I would buy that brand of oatmeal all day long! Seriously, it was right up my alley in so many ways…in fact…do you have enough stored to fill a growler or something for me?

Nicely done! Easily the best you’ve made so far – that’s retail-ready!

My friend Jared also told me he really liked it as well, and another co-worker said the same.

Dang!  I guess the recipes Papazian has in his book are worth doing!  I’ll have to do this one again.  Next time I will add some maltodextrin in to add a touch of body and sweetness.

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Batch 10- Flemmish Brown

I purchased two beer kits a while back for making a Belgian style Old Flemmish Brown ale, and got around to brewing it on Sunday.  Made some Belgian candy sugar to add to it, and given that I don’t have a scale yet to measure the amount to put in, I overestimated and put too much in.  Brewed almost 6-1/2 gallons.

Oh, well.  Fermentation kicked off nicely.  Should get me some good, drinkable beer.  And, hopefully this batch lasts longer than the first time I brewed this.  I want to age some, as this stuff ages nicely.

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Funny Video

My friend Jared put up a hilarious YouTube video here. For those of you too lazy to follow the link, I’ll put it below:


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Beer Failures


I’ve brewed 9 batches of beer since I began this brewing adventure back in Christmas, and it has been a learning process. And, as most people will attest to, no learning is complete without some failure.

My second batch was my first attempt at oatmeal stout, and despite the fun we had brewing it, we burnt the oatmeal, and that burnt flavor took over the beer and ruined it. So, lesson learned? Don’t burn grains! Use a grain bag, then remove the grains before you crank the heat up.

My 4th batch was a German style Hefeweizen, which actually came out tasting more like a Weizenbock. It was delicious, but WAY over-carbonated. I did add more than the standard 3/4 cup of corn sugar, but I was still below the 1 cup mark. The over-foaming could be the result of a bacterial infection in the beer. Lesson learned? Better sanitation is needed when I brew.

Batch 5 was an attempt to utilize the ingredients my brother gave me at Christmas in this beer kit. It had some malt extract and some grains. I attempted to make some wort with the grains with the help of my friend Jared, and we attempted to strain them out then add the malt extract. I had no gelatin to use to bottle, and I didn’t put any Irish Moss in to help settle things. The result? Sludge beer. Some bottles had 1/2 inch of sediment in the bottom. The beer ended up tasting like a muddy amber. Ugh! I tossed it all. Lesson learned? Don’t use old ingredients, and when using grains use a grain bag or better filtration.

Batches 6 and 7 were a traditional bitter and an IPA, made from can’s of extract bought at the beer store. My goal here was just to get a bunch of drinkable beer so I will have something in the fridge, freeing me up to experiment more with brewing. Well, it worked. The beers are drinkable. The IPA is NOT an IPA, it tastes more like a hoppy amber. The bitter is ok, nothing to brag about, but I like it. Jared seemed to detect something in his palate when drinking both of these, which he thought might be bacteria. That may be possible, as I ran out of spring water making these and ended up using some tap water in them. There is also that sanitation issue again, as the kitchen was a disaster when I brewed these. But, whatever that slight taste was that he detected, I still drink these beers. They’re not that bad. Lesson learned: Better Sanitation, and clean the kitchen before brewing and bottling.

Now, we move on to batch 8, which was an American style hefeweizen, supposedly a Widmer clone. I got this from the beer store I got the ingredients from. Now, the recipe only included the ingredients, and that’s it. No description of how much beer it was supposed to make, nothing. So, I assumed a 5 gallon batch, did the grains as per Papazian’s directions on doing a mini-mash, then got the wort boiling and added the wheat extract and the hops. Now, instead of pitching the very expensive yeast I bought and calling it good, I got the hair brained idea to culture the yeast first. I attempted to be sanitary when doing so, sanitizing two beer bottles, filling them with filtered water and corn sugar, then putting 1/2 the yeast into it the two bottles to culture, then pitching the other 1/2 into the beer. I left the bottles out for a few hours to ferment- uncovered (what a dingledorf I am sometimes,) then put them in the fridge and capped them. The yeast I pitched into the beer didn’t take off. After 2 days I decided to pitch one of the beer bottles I cultured into it to get the fermentation going. Well, fermentation began, and kept going, and kept going, and kept going. 14 days of active fermentation. I was getting worried. After it was done I bottled it, and tasted it. At first it tasted like strong alcohol mixed with a light wheat beer. I had no idea what was going on and why it turned out like it did. Then I read what Papazian said about culturing yeast, and infections in the yeast turning your beer into a “band-aid” type taste. Grr…. what a freaking moron! I just ruined an expensive batch of beer by trying something on my own before really reading up on how to do it properly and not doing it sanitary enough. Lesson learned: Don’t mess with the yeast, unless you’re properly prepared to deal with it. There is no room for mistakes with the yeast.

Now my batch I brewed Saturday is batch 9, my second attempt at an oatmeal stout. I followed Papazian’s recipe for his mini-mash oatmeal stout. The only problems I ran into is I slightly melted my grain bag, as it was resting at the bottom of my pot when I turned up the heat to heat up the wort. I didn’t detect any off flavors in the beer, which is good. But I did ruin my grain bag. I also had difficulties in filtering the wort before I boiled it as well as sparging the grains, as I don’t really have a lauder-tun, nor do I have a filter type thingey which fits over my bucket nicely to allow me to focus on pouring. I ended up holding a colander with cheese cloth in it while someone else poured. Not the best method of filtering. I was super-anal about sanitation this time, I kept sanitizing agent in my beer bucket right until the point I was ready to pour my beer into it, and I sanitized EVERYTHING! And I got some yummy tasting oatmeal stout.

So, lesson learned? Get the right equipment for the job, be extra careful about how clean your work area is, be extra careful how you sanitize things, always have specific directions on your recipes, and don’t take any unnecessary chances.

This isn’t rocket science, it’s beer, and that means it’s important!

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Oatmeal Stout- Whole Grain Goodness

I brewed batch 9 yesterday, some Oatmeal Stout.  I used Papazian’s mini-mash recipe from The Complete Joy of Homebrewing.  Now, I purchased the grains a few weeks ago and had them crushed when I purchased them so I wouldn’t have to try to do it myself.  Of course, no one told me to brew them right away, so they’ve been sitting here for weeks waiting till I can get time to brew it.

I started out whipping out my grain bag and throwing all the grains in.  Then I put them all in 1-1/2 gallons of water and steeping it at 133 degrees for 1/2 hour.  Then I brought up the temp to 150 for 45 minutes, adding boiling water to help bring it up.  Then I took it up to 167 degrees for 15 minutes.  While all this wort brewing was happening, I sanitized my buckets and some cheese cloth and other utensils I might need.

Once my wort was done, I carefullly removed the grain bag and set it aside for a moment.  The bag had ripped (actually slightly melted then ripped), so I had to strain the wort to remove a bit of oatmeal that had escaped.  Then I sparged the grains as best I could, burning the crap out of myself in the process.  Sparging meant holding the grains in a strainer over a bucket while my wife poured hot water all over my hands and the grains.  I need to invest in better equipment!

Then off to boil the wart!  I added 2 OZ of Willamette hops and boiled away.  Now, I had a problem.  The recipe calls for 3.3 lbs of dark malt extract at this point, but my brew pot was near the rim.  Grr…..    I had to wait about 30 minutes for enough of the liquid to boil out to add the malt extract.

After an hour in the pot, I poured a gallon of cold water into by brew bucket, added the wort (I used a hops bag so I didn’t have to strain the hops out), and topped it off to 5 gallons.

Now, silly me, I normally take a small bit out to taste, but I was late to get somewhere, so me and the family rushed out the door at this time.  So, I figured I’d wait till I pitched the yeast to taste it.

This morning, before church , I airated the beer and pitched the yeast, making my wife angry at me in the process (oops!)  Before I pitched, I sanititzed a cup and removed a small amount of beer to taste.  Needless to say, my tasting was interrupted by the aforementioned wife, so I wasn’t able to sample the fruit of my labor until this evening.

After spending Easter with the family, we got home and put stuff away and settled in and I noticed this cup sitting on the counter with some beer in it.  So, despite the fact that it’s been sitting out all day, I tasted it.

Wow!  That was good!  This oatmeal stout is going to be an amazing beer!

So, I can’t wait till it’s bottled and ready to drink.  I’ve had enough beer failures since I’ve been at this and I’m ready for an amazing drink of my own crafting.

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